Intense presidential election may result in a record turnout

Published 10:23 am Friday, October 28, 2016

The 2016 presidential election, with all its intensity, will most likely spark one of the state’s highest voter turnouts if the current level of absentee voting is an indication, according to Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon.

Simon, in Austin Thursday, said there were 250,000 absentee ballots cast in the election to date. Absentee ballots can be cast until Nov. 7.

“That’s double the number of absentee ballots sent in at this point in the last election,” he said.

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He attributed the higher number not only to a feisty campaign, but changes in election laws. A revamping of absentee election law has almost certainly affected the number cast. Known as “No Excuses” absentee voting, the changes have removed some of the restrictions that made some reluctant to use the measure.

Simon said the negativity in the law — for instance, the rule making it illegal to cast an absentee vote unless you were sick or were out of the country, has been removed.

Online voter registration and Election Day voter registration are also designed to provide more ease in voting.

Minnesota remained tops in the nation for turn-out in nine straight presidential elections up until 2014, when it fell to sixth place, he said.

“We want to be back at number one,” he added.

Since he has been secretary of state, Simon has worked on public-private partnerships, outreach and visits to high schools, colleges, businesses and organizations to emphasize the importance of voting.

Simon urged 18-year-olds in the audience to cast ballots and to not let the passion shown in the current presidential campaign turn them off.

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon speaks to Austin High School students Thursday afternoon in the annex auditorium. Eric Johnson/

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon speaks to Austin High School students Thursday afternoon in the annex auditorium. Eric Johnson/

He added that “it’s in your best interest to do so … I would urge you to resist the temptation” of staying away from the polls on Election Day. Voting gives citizens power they won’t have if they stay away from the polls.

He quoted a T-shirt with a saying that he thought summed up his feeling: “Failure to vote is not an act of rebellion, it is an act of surrender.”

Several students said they were interested in the process, even though the often-contentious campaign, as one student said, “makes me want to run for the hills.”

Other students said the current campaign has heightened their interest in the election.

“Even though it scares me, all the lying,” a student said.

One female student wondered why there was so much emphasis on the presidential election by the media but little on congressional campaigns. Another student echoed a similar feeling; he has seen little attention paid to caucuses or primaries. Simon said that becomes even more important as Minnesota transitions to a primary system.

Simon said the response by Austin students mirrored those of other high school students across the state.

“They are eager and interested,” he said.

Austin High School students will have a chance to cast votes in a mock election on Thursday, Nov. 3.

Absentee voting

The last day to absentee vote is Nov. 7.

Voters can vote in person at the Mower County Auditor-Treasurer’s Office, 201 First St. NE, Suite 5 in Austin, during regular business hours and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the last Saturday before Election Day, which is Nov. 5.